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UK Brexit secretary visits Belgium
The UK’s undersecretary of state for exiting the EU, Robin Walker, visited Belgium on Friday in a bid to ease trade negotiations between the two countries. He met with the chair of the Federation of Belgian Enterprises, as well as toured the port area.
“As we look forward to our future relationship, an implementation period will be essential to provide certainty to people and businesses in the UK and in Belgium,” said Walker. We are confident that we will be able to secure a future partnership that allows people from the UK and Belgium to continue enjoying open access to one another’s markets.”
Flemish minister-president Geert Bourgeois has long been in favour of a “soft Brexit”, meaning that the UK could retain some favourable aspects of EU membership, including the single market. The UK is Belgium’s fourth-biggest export market, with vehicles, pharmaceuticals and textiles leading the way.
“Approximately 87% of the trade between Belgium and the UK originates from Flanders,” Bourgeois said during a similar meeting with a British minister in 2016. “It is crucial that trade across the Channel continues to flourish.”
Bourgeois has also said that he is in favour of a possible new union for trade relations between countries that border the North Sea – the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, France, Norway, Denmark and Belgium. This would ease pressures on the fishing industry, which was dealt a blow last summer when the UK announced that Belgian fishing boats would no longer have access to some British territorial waters post-Brexit.
Photo: Flanders' biggest export to the UK is trucks and other vehicles ©Courtesy Iveco